Arabic Exodus Likely to Lead to Tighter Border Controls in Europe

Ian Traynor, Guardian (London), May 8, 2011

Whatever the outcome of the Arab Spring, one early casualty is already evident–Europe’s fabled system of border-free travel spanning 25 countries from the Balkans to the Baltic. Roman tantrums over an alleged “human tsunami”, a “biblical exodus” across the Mediterranean from North Africa to the heel of Italy as well as Gallic truculence in asserting control of France’s national borders have forced a radical rethink.

In Brussels last week the European Commission responded to the revolutionary upheavals to the south and pressure from Paris and Rome by proposing more “Fortress Europe” and giving countries greater leeway in re-erecting national passport controls.

It’s a storm in a tea cup, but symptomatic of the European zeitgeist–a partial dismantling of one of the biggest boosts to European integration of the past 30 years as European leaders re-assert the primacy of the nation state against Brussels.

The argument for change is that the passport-free system known as the Schengen regime is no longer fit for purpose. It was established in cold war western Europe in 1985 as a Franco-German pact abolishing border controls between them and the countries in between–Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. It is now a very different animal, embracing 400 million people in 25 countries in a globalised world of mass migration.

European asylum, immigration, and refugee policy is a mess, recent years littered with the debris of grand ideas while national governments jealously guard their own sovereign powers over who is allowed in. As recently as 2008 under France’s EU presidency, the talk was of an “immigration pact” with North Africa, of “blue card” schemes to facilitate and control labour migration.

In fact, for years, the EU threw billions at the tyrants in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya–Mubarak, Ben Ali, and Gaddafi–bribing them to stem the flow and to take back unwanted migrants. Now the EU supports the democratic revolutionaries. But as soon as the dust settles in the Maghreb, the old and new regimes will be under intense pressure to take the money and sign up for more repatriation and deportation pacts with Brussels.

Italy has been the progenitor of the current crisis and the biggest loser. Silvio Berlusconi scored an own goal. He outraged the rest of Europe by trying to export the newcomers beyond Italy. Then he signed a letter with Nicolas Sarkozy of France demanding the right to reinstate national border controls in Schengen which would restrict his scope for export.

Compared with the 400,000 Bosnians who fled to Germany from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, 25,000 reaching Italy from Tunisia looks like less than an emergency. Compared to the 80,000 Iraqis admitted to Sweden, ditto (Sweden’s population is 9 million, Italy’s 60 million).

So when Berlusconi demands that the rest of the EU shares Italy’s load, northern Europe shrugs and mutters “crisis, what crisis.” According to the UN refugee agency, Norway took in more asylum-seekers than Italy in the five years to 2010.

In Brussels, immigration has joined the euro single currency as the crisis du jour. The topic will dominate a summit of EU leaders next month. With Angela Merkel declaring the death of “multi-kulti” in Germany, David Cameron accosting the failures of integration in the UK and anti-immigrant and europhobic populists eating away at the mainstream parties in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, France, Italy, and Austria, the summit will struggle to agree on more than the minimum.

Europe’s current bunch of leaders are long on tactics, short on strategy, following rather than leading public opinion. The mood is fearful and sour. The boat people from north Africa will get the cold shoulder rather than a warm welcome.

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  • sbuffalonative

    Video: Assesment of Sharia:

    http://tinyurl.com/47sqado

  • Ben

    This is an interesting development. I suspected the EU to stubbornly refuse to aid its member states for forsaken ideals insuring a continuous rise in nationalist dissent. They sense this and rather than fighting it they went along hoping that it dies down and no one talks about leaving the EU (unless they see the negative aspects to their line of thinking). It is a wise move nonetheless by the EU.

    Even if this is only temporary, and immigration trends resume after a short period of time, all it takes it brief moments of benefits from temporary seclusion which will intern further trends of right wing populism as they call it.

    Will people from a given nation, experiencing positive benefits from separation (after a certain period), be able to choose that over how “they are viewed in the world for their tolerance and not hate dogma?”

    Unfortunately, our altruist leanings to think outside of our own immediate surroundings and the assumption of innate good quality in all men (rather than tribalism/egocentricism) may make Europeans to bring immigrants back on large scales and shift back to left–even in the spite of positive change for the better.

  • Chicagoan

    Just another snotty opinion from some British moralizer with a podium. Just because he and others like him want to destroy everything European doesn’t mean everyone else has to follow his orders.

    The EU may have had a grand vision of the future but reality forces it to have to be more flexible in the face of changing circumstances.

  • Kenelm Digby

    Either the EU goes or Europe (ie European nations populated by indigenous Europeans) goes.

    It really is as simple and basic as that.

  • Anonymous

    well, MAYBE.

    But it is going to take that sort of catastrophe we all talk about, to bring the sea change that would reverse psychotic Western immigration policy.

    The worse the better, the sooner the better.

    I loathe the idea, and do not wish it, but this body is infected to the point of imminent death. The fever it needs to beat the infection is EXTREME.

    Hopefully the west will NOT die. I love my culture. I do not want people to suffer or die. But everybody , Liberal or conservative, Insider or disenfranchised, Muslim or Western white, KNOWS that no one is going to let go of the straw of security until it is lost. Then, perhaps, the West will rise again.

    Short of that, it is surely dead.

  • miguel

    So why is it they are all heading for Christian, White Europe? No Muslim countries are offering to take them in? What about rich Muslim countries like U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia?

  • Anonymous

    Muslims countries wont touch them with a barge pole,we stupid europeans will take them all and most will want to head to the uk for the amazing benefits,its only men who are coming,id go as far too say around 99% are all men infact,some may have left wives and kids in supposed conflict zones,these people have very little education and have no skills we are short off,they are a drain on everything you can imagine to the deterement of the native tax paying peoples.

    There are no jobs for these people in europe,no housing in europe as we have shortages and cannot house our own people,our countries have no money to give away to these people,our health services are at breaking point,risking our lives,and so many more things i could go on forever,so why are they here,we have nothing in common with these people in every way,they are totaly alien,when will enough be enough for everyone

  • diversity = adversity

    ” The boat people from northern africa will likely get the cold shoulder rather than a warm welcome” christ I certainly hope so!

    It looks like europe is finally waking up.

  • SKIP

    “so why are they here,we have nothing in common with these people in every way,they are totaly alien,when will enough be enough for everyone”

    WHY ARE THEY HERE??? they are there, and anywhere else in the basically non muslim world, TO SPONGE, TO CONQUER, TO CONVERT, TO ENSLAVE or TO KILL! nothing else, only those things listed above and in that order of precedence.